W.I.N. Your 3 Feet of Influence

When I was coaching, I used the term “W.I.N.” with my teams.  It stands for “what’s important now?”  Here’s what it means.

In sports, as in life, we can only control what we can control.

Basketball players can’t control a ref’s calls.  But they can control how they react to bad calls.  A player can’t control (or change) the fact that he just made a bad play.  But he can control how he approaches the next play.  A player can’t control whether a teammate works hard in drills.  But she can control her own effort.

What’s Important Now is controlling whatever you can control . . . right now.  In basketball, that means, playing the next play without worrying about the last or looking forward to one later in the game.

Bad call goes against you?  Yelling at the ref is not what’s important now.  What’s important now?  The next play.  Make a bad turnover?  Hanging your head is not what’s important now.  What’s important now? Sprinting back on defense to stop the opponent who stole your pass.

You get the picture.

Last weekend, my dad’s wife shared Sharon Salzburg’s Your Three Feet of Influence with me.  I loved it.  Here’s my favorite quote from the blog post:

It reminded me of W.I.N?  None of us can control how others act or treat us.  But every single one of us can control our response to how others act and treat us.  And isn’t that almost always what’s important now?

As I thought about it, I thought back to my post President’s Day & Civility.  It’s a post in which I referred to Linda Klein’s President’s Message in the February edition of the ABA Journal:  One Word: Civility.  Please read it.

President Klein wrote:

  • “As leaders in society, lawyers must ensure that civility once again becomes a quality that defines us. We need to set the tone for constructive communication and rational decision-making. It starts with us and every individual committing to a more civil manner, insisting that civility be a part of meetings and interactions. Indeed, we need to hold ourselves and our leaders to a higher standard.”

What’s Important Now?  That in the next interaction I have with someone, I’m going to commit to a civil, honest, respectful communication – – regardless of how that person treats me.  I can’t control how that person acts, but I can control how I act.

Opposing counsel acts like a jerk on the phone, sends a rude e-mail, or says bad things about you in court?  You can’t control that.  But you can absolutely control how you respond.

Finally, I’m especially struck by the fact that I’m writing this as I proctor the bar exam. Civility is as important a skill as is a basic knowledge of evidence, contracts, or civil procedure.  As much as I hope that each examinee passes the exam, I’m as hopeful that, upon admission, each practices law by continually striving to W.I.N. his or her 3 feet of influence.  It would make the profession better and serve as an example to all.

Whatever you do next, try to W.I.N. your 3-feet of influence.  It’ll add up.


3 thoughts on “W.I.N. Your 3 Feet of Influence

  1. Hi Mike,

    thanks for your column. Everybody respects you and Vermont is a better place with you in it, but I have to expand a little to your idea of “civility” and the influence individual behavior has on a system. It is important for attorneys to be “civil”. It’s a good starting point which creates the potential for productive relations and trust moving forward. But, what do you do when you meet the attorney who regards civility and trust as a means to exploit and deceive someone? Suppose someone sees good will as an opportunity to intimidate? Morality and ethics are great devices for the corrupt. Making income is more important for many people than being honest or following rules they feel won’t be enforced. Facile minds use trust and restraint against those who rely on ethical standards of conduct. The more advantage people have, the more they will abuse it.

    So, the point is not to just challenge your column; I mean to add to it.

    Individual effort will not come to much if the systemic conditions needed to support it aren’t there. This means attorneys have to know that the parties who enforce rules and standards, i.e. Judges, are committed to ethics, competence and enhancing the trust on which the legal system relies.

    This is difficult the way most state legal systems are organized. They are basically closed systems and the participants, attorneys/litigants, have very little input or decisive influence on judges and magistrates after they are appointed. Most lay people don’t know how to judge a judge and most attorneys are too frightened to criticize them publicly. In addition, all legal systems have some degree of partisan activity. It can’t be avoided. Certain attorneys will have disproportionate influence with courts. These attorneys will maintain these advantages and many make their careers around developing preferred relations by participating in political and other events.

    The judicial system has a monopoly on the business of ethics, without market competition which can force certain standards (high, preferably) to be practiced.

    So, in conjunction with your suggestions of individual effort, I think the following systemic changes should be made in support of your ideas:

    1. All attorneys should provide reviews of the judge who heard their litigation. Short forms could be provided. These forms would be scoreable and collected in a public archive. If a judge got below a certain score, he/she would be subject to administrative review

    2. Administrative review would take place every 2-3 years. The reviews would be public and announced in

    3. Sanctions during administrative review could include 1) public correction and criticism, 2) reprimand 3) probation and supervision (matter of days to months) 4) suspension 5) recommendation against re-appointment, 6) removal.

    So, perhaps this is a start. Your ideas are good ones, they just can’t be practiced without systemic support.


  2. Nice post.

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